We knocked on an old rusty door that trembled every time her knuckles made contact with the metal. The dogs were barking inside as we were warned not to enter because the children’s mom was not home and the dogs would bite. We looked through the side window that had plastic bars coming down to prevent intruders from trespassing. The bars made the building look more like a prison than a home. We heard children playing inside, laughing, and a TV blaring in the background. My friend, Coco, looked at me and motioned to enter anyway, “This family is very special to me.” She said, “Come in and you’ll see why.”
We walked in to the dirt floors and there was a tarp hung to distinguish the front part of the home from the bedroom. As I turned the corner I saw a little boy sitting on the dirt floor with cards. I looked up, another small boy was sitting in his bed with something hooked onto his face. An oxygen tank about 5+ feet tall sat next to his bed and rubber tubes connected him to that unmovable tank. He was a young Peruvian boy with olive dark skin, but his face was “gringo” like, pale and lacking in color. As he saw Coco, his eyes lit up and a smile spread across his face showing his perfect teeth. He reached for her to give her a hug and as soon as she kissed him on the cheek he began to cough. It was a cough that rumbled his bones as he gasped for breath to replenish the oxygen he was already lacking. Coco turned to me, “This is what happens when he gets too excited. He coughs and he can’t stop. I haven’t been to see him in three days and I got him too excited. I normally can come and see him every day.”
On the table beside his bed he made people out of pipe cleaners, colors of blue, red, green, yellow. There was a man and woman with big hearts that was set apart from the rest of the art. Jaimie, the little boy on oxygen, made Coco and her husband with the pipe cleaners he was given. He made them with two big hearts at the center of their chests. Just as I picked up the artwork to touch the heart, Coco reached for a fan to fan off Jaimie as he continued to cough. He could barely breath, but he managed to smile at her. He was hunched over because the coughing had taken every ounce of energy he had, but feeling her fan him he looked up and his eyes were big and bright. He loves her.
Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched this little boy struggle to breathe and Coco with her beautiful smile and loving heart ask about his day and what he has been doing. She devoted every ounce of attention she had to this boy who idolizes her.
I looked around the place this boy calls home. On the other side of the tarp is their living area. Within three feet from each other there are two beds. One for Jaimie and one for his mother and brother to share. The dirt floors create a dusty film over everything in the house. The sheets, once white, are now beige. Things were piled on top of each other due to lack of space. Jaimie’s oxygen tank looked cast iron and had another bag hanging from it, too heavy to wheel around anywhere. The oxygen tank is saving Jaimie’s life. However, at the same time, it is keeping him trapped in his house and in his bed every moment of every day. These tubes in his nose are allowing his heart to beat, but keeping him prisoner from living his life.
My hand was pulled, it was his little brother holding a deck of Uno cards. I sat down in the dirt next to him and he passed the cards between us. I noticed this ripped deck of Uno cards was missing most of the numbers and colors. This deck had been shown so much love, it barely existed anymore. It made me think of all the board game I had growing up that we never touched after Christmas morning. What happened to these games and why were they not given to someone who appreciated them?
As I sat there playing with little Manuel, I listened to Coco talking to Jaimie. Manuel and I were laughing, teasing, and playing together while Jaimie and Coco were doing the same. In this house that appeared to have nothing, with a boy severely ill, in that moment nothing was lacking. We had love, time, joy, and companionship. In that exact moment, we had every thing we needed. All was well in our world.
As we left, Coco informed me of the situation. Jaimie was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis a few years ago. He was hospitalized and was told he could not live without oxygen. Jaimie looks like he is 7 years old, but is really 15 years old. Due to the lack of oxygen the nutrients were not spread throughout his body as he grew, so there are parts of him that are deformed. Last year, he had a heart attack. He now only has use of half of his heart and a small percentage of his lungs. His family cannot afford the oxygen and so Coco does fundraisers in Sweden (where she is from) to help his family keep Jaimie alive. Last week, there were no donations made.
I am living in Huanchaco, Peru where I am volunteering for three months with women and children in this area. Right now, I have started a crochet group for the mom’s of this community to crochet products for me to bring back and sell in the U.S. I will then send the proceeds back to these families, like Jaimie’s, to use for food, medicine, schooling, and whatever else they need. This is a small contribution I hope to make for the greater good of this community.
Being here and seeing some of the things that I have seen has made it very hard to see the light. I often question, what am I doing here? Am I making a difference? Or am I showing these amazing people the lack they have in their life? It has been a debate I go through every day. However, it is in these moment where I am shown the pure light that can happen in any circumstance. In these moments, I am shown what is truly important in life. If I could give any gift to the world, it would be for every person to experience these moments. A moment outside of yourself. A moment where there are no boundaries between you and another person, there is no race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status. It is just us, pure beings of light and love.
So, I am giving you this gift to share with me as I experience these things. Give a moment to yourself to appreciate the beauty that is held everywhere. See the beauty in yourself, see the beauty in others, see the beauty in the world. Only then can the light really be shared.